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Comparing Drawing & Painting Mediums

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  • 0:03 Artists Work in…
  • 0:50 Drawing Mediums
  • 2:15 Painting Mediums
  • 3:43 Mixing Mediums
  • 5:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Have you ever drawn a picture in pencil and then painted it? Some artists work in more than one medium. In this lesson, explore and compare work done using drawing and painting processes.

Artists Work in Multiple Mediums

Artists have many choices of materials. Some might use drawing or painting materials exclusively, or they might combine more than one medium. Experimentation might be involved, so it's good to know that some drawing and painting mediums work better in combination than others.

Before we compare mediums, let's review terms. A pigment is a dry mineral or chemical powder that gives an art medium color. A binder is a substance that holds the pigment in suspension and allows it to be used in dry or wet form. In general, all artists' materials, whether for drawing or painting, use the same pigments. The binder makes the difference.

Now, let's explore the qualities of tools used in visual art and examine how compatible they are with each other.

Drawing Mediums

Drawing is the process of using tools to make marks on a surface. Drawing mediums can be dry or wet. A dry medium leaves a mark made of small matter that can be rubbed or blended by smudging. A wet medium uses pigment in liquid, perhaps water or alcohol. Drawing with wet mediums requires a tool like a pen or a brush.

Dry drawing mediums include pencils. You've heard them called lead pencils, but the substance inside is graphite, a mix of carbon and clay molded into a drawing stick. Drawing pencils come in a range of thickness. Hard pencils produce precise, light lines, and soft pencils produce dark lines. Drawing pencils are used for sketching and roughing out images that will be finished in other mediums.

Pastels, another dry drawing material, are similar to chalk. They're made by mixing powdered pigments with a clay binder that allows them to dry into sticks with deep color. Pastels leave softer, more powdery lines than graphite. They're sometimes described as velvety.

Pen and ink is a wet drawing medium that uses a water or alcohol-based ink. To draw with ink, you use a tool with a tip or brushes. This medium can create thin precise lines or feathery spreading lines, depending on how it's applied and the surface on which it's used. Some alcohol-based inks are permanent, which makes them usable with other mediums.

Painting Mediums

Painting processes use pigments in a liquid or viscous (thick and gel-like) binder that allows them to be used or spread with a brush. Watercolors are made of pigments in a water-soluble binder. They come in a dry or paste form, and you add water to use them, usually on thick, absorbent paper. They create thin, transparent washes of color and are worked in broad strokes of color. Watercolors can also be used to create lines similar to drawing. Unlike other paints, watercolors can't be used to build up layers, and you can't correct mistakes once they've been made.

Oil paint is made of pigment in an oil binder. Oil paints aren't water-soluble, and they dry slowly when exposed to air. To thin them, you use a solvent like turpentine or mineral spirits. Oil paint has brilliant, deep color, and can be worked and reworked. It's used as one thick layer of paint or painstakingly applied in layer after layer. It's usually used on canvas or wood surfaces and doesn't stick well to some surfaces, like plastic.

Acrylic paint is pigment in a polymer emulsion. Basically, acrylics are plastic. They dry quickly, are water-soluble when wet, and can be used for a wide range of techniques, from thin washes of color to thick, tactile layers. They come in vivid colors that darken a bit as they dry. Acrylic is one of the most versatile paints and can be used on a wide variety of surfaces, including plastics.

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